For the past few months, particularly after the announcement of Narendra Modi as the prime ministerial candidate by BJP, discussions regarding the Gujarat model of development started seriously in public. Though the main participants in this exercise continue to remain the political parties, a few internationally known economists, besides the analysts and others, have been voicing their opinions.
But more often the exercise has turned into a debate between a few numbers connected with the Gujarat economy and that of the other states in the country. When Amartya Sen, Jagdish Bhagwati and Arvind Panagariya got involved in it, it became a fight for their known ideological positions. Usually the critics identify Modi with “big business”, citing the Vibrant Gujarat summits that involve high profile industrialists.
But they all seem to miss one important point. What is the essence of the Gujarat model? Any economic model would prove to be ineffective if it does not provide adequate space for all the different segments of the society. In fact, the state should concentrate more on the development of the weaker and marginalised sections.
Indian economy is unique for many reasons. The unorganized sector plays a dominant role and is critical to our nation in terms of its contribution, employment and entrepreneurship. Unorganised sector includes the micro, small, medium and cottage units. This sector contributes the largest share to the national income. It is also the place where the less privileged and the ordinary sections of the society promote and operate their ventures. Economic Survey 2005 released by the Government of India notes that there were around 42 million enterprises in the unorganised sector, functioning across the country.
It is in this connection that the recent discussions on the Gujarat kite industry becomes important. Usually the unorganized sector businesses do not get the attention of the higher authorities and the policy making circles, both at the state and central levels. In the same way, the Gujarat kite industry also remained unnoticed till a decade back.
Kites play an important role in the lives of Gujaratis. Uttarayan is the annual event when the sun enters the northern orbit. It is celebrated in the state with much fanfare by flying kites. There are other festive occasions such as Gokulashtami, when kites are in demand.
Muslims dominate the industry, particularly kite making. Women play the major role, with their involvement around 70 per cent or even more. Besides, this is an industry where both the Hindus and Muslims work together in close coordination. Hindus are slightly higher in the retail segment of kite business.
Around 2003, it was estimated that there were one lakh families directly employed in the business. Kite making is basically a home based activity involving the family members. The people in the industry were facing difficulties, as many other unorganised businesses in the country. Besides, the people engaged in the industry were also worried about the declining popularity of kites among the younger generation.
It was at this stage Narendra Modi, as the Chief Minister, swung into action. He invited those who were engaged in studies relating to the local industries from Tamil Nadu to study the kite industry and suggest plans for its promotion. A team of experts started working with the relevant authorities during 2003. Reputed agencies undertook the survey of the industry visiting various places where kite related activities were going on.
Strategies were formulated for both the short and the long terms. As a follow up, a workshop involving all the stakeholders in the industry was organised during Dec.2013. The representatives of the manufacturers, retailers, wholesalers, NGOs, financial institutions, women and minority development bodies and kite experts at the national and international levels were invited for the programme. Besides, the concerned officials and Ministers also attended the workshop. It was meant for exchange of opinions and exploring new avenues.
While inaugurating the workshop, the Chief Minister announced that he would take all possible steps to take the industry forward to the higher levels. He also said that policies would be framed for the economic development of craftsmen. The workshop discussed various aspects related to the kite industry.
Issues relating to production, finance, marketing, raw materials, designing, exports and advertising were taken up for presentation. Apart from the experienced industry representatives, professional experts from reputed institutions and the administrators in banking, women and minority development organisations shared their views.
Ordinary people from the industry voiced their difficulties and explained their problems to the higher authorities directly in the presence of many others. It was also an occasion for all those who make policies to understand the functioning of the industry. Moreover, the people from the industry got an opportunity to listen to various experts, professionals and well-wishers. They were able to know the schemes available and get new insights for improving their business.
Since then the Gujarat Government has taken several measures to develop the industry over the last ten years. The crucial issues raised by the stakeholders during the study and later at the workshop have been addressed. Manufacturing of kites was covered under the cluster development scheme for cottage and rural industries announced during 2003-04. The Government took up training to those engaged in trade, besides helping the industry to make innovations.
It was suggested to the Government to organize kite festivals in different parts of the state to create an interest about kites among people. Accordingly the Government has been organizing festivals in many parts of the state. Besides, such festivals were also organized in Delhi and Mumbai on the theme, ‘Chalo Gujarat’.
After ten years now, the turnover of the industry has crossed Rs.700 crores. It is a remarkable journey from Rs.35 crores during 2001-02. This is perhaps the first ever initiative taken by a state Government in independent India to successfully develop a business run by the ordinary and less educated sections of the society.
Narendra Modi has succeeded in making kites a symbol of Gujarat. Kites have also emerged as a symbol of the growth of the unorganized and cottage industries in the state. It signifies an inclusive model of growth which the other states in the country should take note of.
All round improvement involves the economic development of all the segments of the society. Modi is aware of this and that is the reason why he has been concentrating on the development of different sectors of the economy, involving diverse sections of people. The essence of the Gujarat model lies in this approach.